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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple touch can change your world
Cassel is cursed. He comes from a family of magic workers and lives in a world where magic was banned decades ago, but Cassel can't work magic. His family hate him for being the only non-worker...and because they helped cover up a murder he committed as a child. But when Cassel finds himself being haunted by a white cat, and his dreams are leading him to sleepwalk to...
Published 20 months ago by C. Manning

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Sorry, this book failed to tap into my imagination and for me did not live up to the reviews that prompted me to read it.
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple touch can change your world, 12 Dec 2012
C. Manning (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Cassel is cursed. He comes from a family of magic workers and lives in a world where magic was banned decades ago, but Cassel can't work magic. His family hate him for being the only non-worker...and because they helped cover up a murder he committed as a child. But when Cassel finds himself being haunted by a white cat, and his dreams are leading him to sleepwalk to increasingly bizarre places, he is forced to turn to his family to discover the secrets hidden in his past.

This is the first book in the Curse Workers series and the first book by Holly Black I've read and it blew me away. Finding young adult urban fantasy can be near impossible, but this is an incredible example of just how good it can be. Holly Black has reshaped our world by pushing curse workers out of the closet in 1929 and now in the present day their existence is banned so they are forced to hide their identities. One thing I love is that in this world, magic comes at a cost, so whatever you do will rebound on you in a somewhat karmic way.

The plot is brilliantly written and packed with twists and turns. There is an incredible depth of storyline and the world of the curse workers is fully fleshed out. Workers are divided into different groups (death workers that can kill with a touch, memory workers who can rewrite your life) and exist as an underground society since the ban, with most working as con artists or for organized gangs. There are even worker equality groups in the non-worker community. The idea of a con is woven throughout the storyline as it is a skill Cassel learnt at his mother's knee.

Cassel is a great lead character. As the normal guy in a family of workers, he is able to introduce us to their world without info-dumping and also plays the black sheep incredibly well which helps him in his quest to find out why he's being haunted by the white cat. His roommate Sam ends up as his best friend almost by accident and I loved how their friendship grew over the course of the book. Daneca the pro-worker supporter adds some comic relief to the book with her determintion to win Cassel to her side.

Cassel's family on the other hand was a different story. I didn't really like either of his brothers or his jailbird mother, but I adored his death worker grandfather Desi. He brought a new dimension to the story and quickly became a favourite character.

All in all, this was a great read and I'm looking forward to Red Glove.

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Cover: 9/10

Overall: 49/50
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and enthralling read, 6 May 2012
The Curse Worker trilogy has just recently finished with the April release of the final instalment, Black Heart. I had seen many people say great things about the series but it was just one of those that I never got round to reading.

White Cat was definitely not what I expected, reading the blurb or hearing summaries using the word `magic' does not really capture what this story is about, it's more to do with curses, ones that can potentially back fire. What was really interesting was how it changed society - to perform curse work you have to touch someone with your bare hands and therefore everyone goes around wearing gloves and it's seen as taboo to have bare hands - that was a really interesting concept. I found it to be an incredibly new take on magic in general, I liked that they couldn't just get away with doing these evil things without having something happen to them in return - Karmic retribution if you will.

I also really loved that it's set in our world but with an alternative history - everything is the same as our world but with curse workers, all the historical events happened such as the Wall Street Crash in 1929 but also the ban on curse working; which as a history nerd I found to be a really cool idea. I also loved that it's kind of has a mafia/ old school gangster feel going on with families and initiations and big parties and also organized crime and killings - it was fascinating and not something I've ever read before.

However it took quite some time to get into White Cat, I can't explain why but it wasn't one of those books that I had to devour all in one sitting. I think the story took quite some time to develop and to pick up speed. I loved the ending, the twist was great and I did not expect it! 100 points to Holly Black for being completely sneaky. I loved the double - crossing kind of aspect of the plot and how you don't really know whose on which side.

As for the characters I loved all the `evil' ones! It's so very rare in YA that you get believable `villains' that have done legitimately bad things, instead of nasty blonde popular girls saying horrible things it was murder, so I really loved all the characters that were involved in the darker side of the family and all of it's dodgy dealings. Cassel seemed very believable I liked how he was struggling to be an outsider, how he learnt about himself throughout the story and realised that he wasn't actually who he thought he was in more ways than one. My favourite discovery was that he thought he was an amazing con - artist and liar and I found it really intriguing to see him trying to discover if he truly was and whether he wanted to be. Also he kind of wrestled with the idea of what was right and wrong about that, especially since from a young age - lying and stealing and all things that are traditionally seen as morally corrupt were the norm to him.

I liked White Cat and would definitely recommend it to anyone who, like me, hasn't gotten around to reading it - it is a truly unique read. I'm definitely going to give Red Glove, the second in the trilogy, a shot as soon as I can get my hands on it.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come be worked over by Holly Black, 7 May 2010
Steven R. McEvoy "MCWPP" (Canada) - See all my reviews
Holly Black is fast becoming one of my favourite female authors. I now rank her with Terry Tempest Williams, Madeleine L'Engle and Kathy Shaidle. Her works are dark, witty and sublime. Her world creation is believable and compelling, and something about every one of her books I have read has touched something deep and sometimes dark inside myself. Black has a way of drawing the reader into her world that makes you become a part of it. While reading this book I dreamed about it, and found myself reflecting upon it and the alternate reality it presents again and again. I cannot get the story out of my head, and to be honest I do not want to. Not since reading Madeleine L'Engle's books about a decade ago has an author's words and worlds impacted me so completely from a fictional novel.

The story is set in an alternate reality to our own timeline. Except instead of just booze being banned during prohibition, so is magic, or working as it becomes known. Though the ban on booze was lifted, the ban on magic was not. So in a time very close to our own, most people wear gloves for fear of being touched and worked by one with the gift. And people either fear that they have the ability or that they don't and are just 'normal'. Our hero Cassel comes from a family of workers. Not one of the controlling crime families, much like a magic mafia, but a family with certain skills and powers. He is the only one without them, and as such he always feels on the outside. Outside his own family because he does not have the gift and is not fully part of their plan, and on the outside at school because he comes from a family of workers. Cassel, just wants to be a normal boy in high school. The problem is, he killed his best friend four years ago, and even though he doesn't remember doing it, he remembers her body and his family cleaning up the mess for him.

Cassel's problems start when he sleep walks and nearly falls off the roof of his school dorm. Then he realizes all the pieces of his life, his memories, do not fit together right. He begins to wonder if he has been worked. He has a lot to figure out and not a lot of time to do it, and even fewer people he can trust.

Cassel is a strong character, troubled, and in a tight spot, but someone who is working to resolve his issues and trying to do the right thing. He is someone you grow to respect and appreciate, someone you would want as your friend.

The story is well written and the world Black has created is enthralling. Black leads us down a path where magic, the fey and the country witch developed into mainstays in our culture, not just something trifling at the sides. Though their practice and arts are against the law, many still use them, for both good and bad. Where charms and protection are needed, but cannot always to be trusted. As Black writes about the curse workers, you will fall under her charm and be captivated by her writings, and maybe be a little worked to love her and her books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Curse Workers book 1, 10 July 2014
Sarah (Feeling Fictional) (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
People have been telling me to read White Cat for years but for some reason it had never quite reached the top of my to read pile. The only reason I'm not kicking myself now is that the entire trilogy is already available so I'm going to be able to binge on the whole series without having that horrible year long wait in between instalments! I finally know what all the fuss is about and White Cat is without a doubt a brilliant start to the Curse Workers series. I'm excited to spend more time in this world with Cassel and his family.

You've probably already read a million reviews for this series, in fact you've probably already read these books for yourself, but if you're one of the few people who has yet to discover this world then you're really missing out. Holly Black has created a world that is slightly different to our own, one where certain people are born with magical abilities. People with these abilities are known as Curse Workers and there are a range of different powers that Workers may have, anything from being able to give people luck, invade people's dreams, change their memories and emotions or even physically hurt or kill them. These powers usually run in families so although each family member may have a different ability it is unusual to be born to two Workers and not be a Worker yourself. Because of their abilities Workers are highly prized by the criminal underworld, the most powerful families have control and other Workers are often sought out to work for them.

Cassel is an anomaly, his family have all been Workers for generations, his grandfather, mother and both of his brothers all have strong abilities but Cassel has never been able to work curses. Because of that he is treated as an outsider by the others, they see him as someone who needs protecting and they refuse to share details of their abilities or the jobs that they undertake for the Zacharov crime syndicate. Cassel has never had a normal life, he may not have magic but he is a skilled con artist and has often helped his mother scam unsuspecting marks out of their money. Scamming comes as naturally to him as breathing but it also keeps him at a distance from others and ever since a terrible accident when he was a child he has never let anyone close enough to become his friend. He is about to uncover a secret though, one so terrible that it will tear his world apart and he's going to have to find some allies quickly if he wants to find a way out.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed Holly Black's world building, the idea of Curse Workers is absolutely fascinating and I loved the fact that using their abilities has major repercussions for them. The characters are all fantastic (and how rare is it to find a male lead in YA?) and I was kept on the edge of my seat by the constant plot twists. I don't really want to say too much about what happens but trust me you'll never guess how things will turn out! The story is fast paced and I didn't want to put it down. As a side note I ended up listening to the audiobook and the narrator (Jesse Eisenberg) is absolutely brilliant and he really helps bring the characters to life. I have to admit I'm a bit of a sporadic audiobook listener, I usually get distracted and find I stopped listening 10 minutes ago and now have no idea what is happening in the story but that didn't happen here and I kept making excuses to listen for a just few more minutes.

If you haven't already started this series then I can't recommend it highly enough. I ordered copies of both Red Glove and Black Heart before I'd even finished with White Cat and I can't wait to finish the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars White Cat, 7 Nov 2013
I'd seen this book around but I hadn't heard much about it, and then I saw it in my library and just decided to pick it up. It did take me a while to actually get around to reading this book, I just wasn't in the mood for it. I'm so glad I finally got around to picking it up though because I really enjoyed it.

White Cat follows a boy called Cassel who murdered his best friend. He's constantly haunted by the memory of it and he puts on a front to try and fit in at school. Cassel's family is one of the big five crime families in America. Each member of these families has a unique power they can use to manipulate people. Cassel thinks his brothers hate him because he's the only person in their family who can't do magic. But there's something else going on and Cassel is about to uncover a dark secret.

To start with, I was unsure whether I was going to enjoy this book or not. It was quite slow and confusing at the start but I gradually managed to grasp what was going on in this book and then I was suddenly hooked. I wanted to know what Cassel's brothers were hiding from him and find out more about what happened when Cassel murdered his best friend.

Cassel has grown up haunted by the memory of what he did. He's always questioning himself and wondering whether he'll do it again. I felt so bad for Cassel. He couldn't even have a normal life because that memory destroyed him. He's in constant fear that this monster is going to jump out of him and kill again that he tries to hide who he is and puts up a shield. He doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. Cassel was a pretty strong character. After everything he'd been through and everything he deals with everyday, he manages to keep it together. He's also very determined. As soon as he realises something is being hidden from him, he does everything he can to try and figure out what it is, even if it means endangering his life.

The whole storyline revolving around workers and their powers was extremely interesting. I loved finding out the back story to them and finding out why they're banned now. It was also interesting finding out what powers the characters in this book had.

The one problem I had with this book was that Cassel wasn't figuring things out quick enough for me. I'd figure something out and it'd take him another 4-5 chapters to realise. I wanted to hit him and make him realise sooner! Some of the things were just so damn obvious and I couldn't believe that Cassel didn't realise until later.

I felt so bad for Cassel at the end. After everything he'd been through, his mother went and done that and I wanted to punch her. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing how everything it going to play out in the next book and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Cassel will be able to find a solution for what happened at the end.

Overall, this was an intriguing and enjoyable novel. There were times it was slow and predictable, but I still really enjoyed it. It's a book I'd definitely recommend giving a go.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I thought there wasn’t much room left in the YA genre for a completely new prospect but I eat my words, 10 Aug 2014
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I thought there wasn’t much room left in the YA genre for a completely new prospect but I eat my words. I have not read anything like this, full stop. Holly Black has written a unique and beautiful novel that I loved a lot more than I expected!

The start was admittedly slow because since it’s the first in a series there was of course world-building; and while it wasn’t bad/boring, it was hard to get into the story and connect to the characters but it quickly picked up and from then on never let up. I loved the ever present humour and the start was brilliant, with the male protagonist hanging from a roof in his boxers… A very clear indicator that this would be a fun book. The world of Curse Workers where people can change your emotions, or turn you into a cat, or remove memories with single touch is incredibly interesting, and there’s a lot more that can come from it.

As far as characters went I thought Cassel’s family was shady to say the least. Cassel’s the only non-worker in the family and with that came a lot of secrets and dodging around the truth like it was the plague. They never gave straight answers and as con-artists were very good at lying; it all came with the job of being a Curse Worker because the second someone realised they were being Worked everything would go up in smoke and they’d be carted off to jail (Cassel’s mother learnt that the hard way, but God only knows if she learnt her lesson).

Cassel was easily my favourite part of the book because it was easy to see him as a real person: likeable but flawed (it was easy to forget it’s written by a female, so well done Black!). He’s the laid back guy who prefers to hide in the shadows where drama still manages to find him; and what’s most surprising is that he’s not the type of person you expect to rise up and be a hero, but he does even when he doesn’t think can do it himself. I really wanted things to work out for him but of course if that happened there would be no story! Instead he faces complicated obstacle after obstacle trying to cling onto what parts of himself he still had left untouched by poisonous lies.

Now while I’m not usually a romance fanatic I think it needed something more than Cassel’s memories of a girl he loved that to be honest sounded really spiteful and just plain bitchy. He didn’t drone on about her *phew* and she was mentioned plenty enough for me as is, but perhaps someone else could have added something to the story? Just an idea, but still this was a great book and if you’re dubious about it like I was just have a go and stick with it. You won’t regret it and you just might end up loving it…

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 2 April 2014
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This review is from: White Cat (Kindle Edition)
Sorry, this book failed to tap into my imagination and for me did not live up to the reviews that prompted me to read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The con is on in White Cat, 22 Feb 2012
Holly Black's White Cat was another London buy recommended by Liz, who really tried to fix some glaring gaps in my YA reading! White Cat had been on my radar before London however, mostly due to the lovely Gollancz cover, since being a cat person a good cover featuring a cat will catch my eye every time. Even though I had a rocky start to begin with - I had a hard time getting into the story and connecting to Cassel - I ended up loving this book.

One aspect that really won me over was the con aspect of it, as I love Hustle and it reminded me of that at times. Much like Hustle's writers, Black succeeds in making con-loving Cassel sympathetic, despite him being a manipulative and devious kid. Especially once we move away from the school setting and get to the meat of the story Cassel becomes more and more likeable and we get more of a feel for why he has this love of the con and why he became that way. On the one hand, Black shows us the tricks behind the con, the sleight of hand and misdirection that goes into it, on the other, the reader gets conned as well, as Cassel tricks us too in the end.

Once it gets going the plot is intricate and fast and the reader really needs to pay attention, not just to catch what Cassel is doing, but also to catch what is going on in his family. The twist to the story is amazing; I didn't see that one coming until just before it happened. There are so many layers of misdirection and deceit to the plot, that working all of them out is a challenge, but one I gladly undertook, because figuring everything out and checking back to see what clues I missed, was actually quite a lot of fun.

The central conceit of the story is the idea of Prohibition-like ban on Working, as the magic in Black's reality is called. And I really loved that idea, because it made for interesting consequences to society's development. The world building required to pull this conceit off was well done. It's not very obvious, but it is all pervasive. Black doesn't give us much of an idea how much history has been changed by the prohibition on Working, but she does show how divided society has become, between non-Workers and Workers and how Workers are automatically regarded as being criminally inclined, a perception strengthened by the mob-like 'royal' Worker families, such as the Zacharovs that Cassel's family work for.

The characters are fun, even if we have a relatively small cast of main players. Cassel is great; as I said above, I like how the author manages to make him likeable despite his pretty substantial character flaws and I think his development throughout the novel was really well done and convincing. My favourite characters, however, were Sam and Daneca, Cassel's school friends, who to his surprise stand by him despite discovering who he truly is. I loved Sam's nerdy cuteness and the way he and Daneca sort of slip into boyfriend/girlfriend status almost without noticing. Cassel's mum is just a disaster. She's completely clueless and I just wanted to slap her every time she got Cassel on the phone. Cassel's brothers are awful, showing how power and envy can corrupt anyone and that sometimes family can be your worst enemies. I really liked Cassel's Granddad, though; because at the start of the book, I found him somewhat sinister and scary and thought he didn't really like Cassel, but it turns out he's a really sweet man and Cassel's greatest ally in his family circle.

The con is on in White Cat and I had a great time with it. It is a great book, fast-paced, tricky and exciting and I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if, like me, you're catching up on YA goodness. I can't wait to get my hands on the other two books in this series, Red Glove, which came out from Gollancz last year and Black Heart, which is due out this April.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Characters, Magic, World, Writing... Everything! Book Two Desperately Needed!, 6 Oct 2011
4 Out of 5
Cassel Sharpe has a big secret. He killed a girl when he was fourteen years old. He was found standing over the body, covered in blood. No one in his family will ever forget that. They also won't forget that he isn't a worker. His whole family are curse workers, working for a major crime family. Cassel is the only one without magic, and his brother Philip can't even look him in the eye. And now Cassel is being haunted. By a white cat. Something big is going on in his family. Or rather, some big secret is about to come out. One that will change Cassel forever...

I was addicted to this book. What is it about Holly Black? She just made me want to read on and on. I loved trying to figure the mystery out. All the characters were great. The plot superfast and the world both terrifying and amazing. I adored the writing, Cassel and the way I could never be sure of anything. I loved this book! It was totally addictive.

Cassel Sharpe was someone I liked straightaway. He was funny, and rather snarky. And from the word go, he honestly, really didn't seem like the kind of person who would kill someone. Ok, so he was a con artist and a bookie, but that was only because he was good at surviving: adaptable and resourceful. He was very odd, really sweet and always said what he thought - which gets him in loads of trouble. Plus he was an evil freaking genius.

Cassel and his family really stole the show. His eldest brother, Philip, was married with a son. Six years older than Cassel, he was a physical worker, which meant she could break bones with a touch. Something was iffy about him from the word go. The middle brother, Barron, studying law at college, was a "compulsive liar". He was the only one Cassel felt he could talk to. Now, Barron was a bit of an odd one... Their mom, who was "scary and manipulative", and locked away for working, but obviously loved her boys very much. What I couldn't believe was that she taught her kids how to commit crimes! Cassel was seven - seven - when he committed his first crime. The family was odd - very odd, but it was really interesting. They looked out for each other, even as they beat one another up. The relationships and emotions between them all were intriguing, and always changing...

The "back-up cast" were just as good. Sam Yu, Cassel's sort-of-friend and dorm-mate was a great mate and rather bonkers. Daneca Wasserman, daughter of an out-of the-closet worker, who was wonderful - completely insane, but wonderful. The baddies were creepy, scary and intimidating - just how I like my crime lords!

I have to admit: I felt a little lost at the beginning. Like I was thrown in at the middle of a story. But that was only a very brief feeling. I love this world and I loved this book. I mean, I just loved everything about the world Holly created. Everything was revealed little by little, and I just gobbled it all up. All the different kinds of workers (seven in total, luck the most common and transformation the rarest), how everyone had to wear gloves at all times, how the ban against working was put in place in 1929... As you can see, I memorized rather a lot of these facts. Does that make me totally sad? But, seriously, amazing: I would love to be a worker!

Again, I have to say that the family ties were really eye-opening. Cassel was torn in all directions by his loyalties to his family. Even after everything they did to him. And though he wanted to hate them, he couldn't help loving them a little too. The way Holly described the ties was just amazing and completely believable, even with all the very impossible things about the family.

It also had an amazing plot! Twists, turns, surprises. And I honestly did not see one of the big twists. I completely misjudged some characters. I ended up loving people I hated and hating people I loved. And it just just such a new take on magic! Unlike anything, ever. Brilliant! I mean, what more do you want?

Action, magic, murder, secret crime families. I adored this book: it honestly had everything. Plus, it was insanely gripping. I wanted, no scratch that, needed to know what happened next. I sped to the end, devouring every page. It was wonderfully dark and brilliantly twisted. Now, Book Two please!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite reads of 2011 so far..., 4 Sep 2011
"White Cat" is what you get if you mix Harry Potter with The Sopranos (and a tiny sprinkling of rich, bratty teen dramas such as Gossip Girl), and tell it from the perspective of an angsty 17 year old boy. I had never read a Holly Black book up until now, and I can safely say she has a new fan. Her writing is wicked! Dark, biting, and convincingly real as it is wildly imaginative. The world-building is great, with the differing twists from reality slotting in convincingly and creating an intriguing world that requires minimal suspension of disbelief and is easy to get to grips with. To be honest, the blurb on the back does not do the story justice.

The protagonist - first person narrator, Cassel - is deeply flawed and completely fascinating. At the beginning of the book he is a detached character, very cold and evaluative around others due to being deeply protective of himself and his backstory. Black excels at punchy characterisation, and every member of the supporting cast gets just enough to make them really stand out and sparkle. Favourite bits of mine are the description of the keloid necklace that mark the workers of crime lord, Zacharov, the feline behaviour of the creepy, eponymous white cat - which is completely on the pulse - and the warped family dynamic between Cassel, his brothers, Philip and Barron, his incarcerated, impulsive mother and his wiley old grandfather.

I wish I could say more, particularly about the villains, and the love interest(s), but it's unfortunately impossible to do so without giving away too much of the book and spoiling the plot, and part of the story's beauty is the wonderful balance it gets between baiting you with information from the beginning and throwing you curveballs. You're never quite sure where it's going to go, and that makes it absolutely gripping.

I can't wait to get my hands on the second one...
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